Friday, October 22, 2010

Learning about learning about...

The donkey-like teeth of my mind have been working a question for a few days now.  It's probably a question I am completely unqualified to answer and it feels like grizzle between my thinking teeth.  [A vegetarian metaphor would be that it feels like the tough, stringy bits in snow peas.]   Which means, of course, that I have to offer my best attempt at an answer.

The question can have many words and I'm not even really sure if I can actually formulate it.  I will use the words I think I heard when the query was put to me.
How exactly does learning work?  How does it happen?  To put it another way: what are the mechanics of learning?
I can still feel it moving from side to side in my brain.  Maybe I am not ready to proffer my answer.  So let's pontificate together, shall we?

What have you learned?  And how have you come by the learning.  To learn is:
To acquire knowledge of or skill in by study, instruction, or experience
We have learned to walk, talk, get dressed, sit, stand, run, throw a ball, comb our hair, tie our laces, floss, type, make a cup of tea, that some things are better left unsaid (and you can say them anyway), to write cheques, to drive, to trim our beards, to read, write, spell, call one's sister on her birthday, to bring a bottle of wine or something nice when you get invited to dinner at someone's home, to take phone messages...

The list seems as though it has the potential to be infinite.  We have learned an immeasurable number of meaningful and random things.  But - HOW?!?!

Here's what I know to be true for me:  I learn best through experience.  But it's not the only way I learn well or easily.  I can walk into a room full of pre-schoolers and know all 17 of their names within 15 to 20 minutes.  With adults, not so much.  I cannot tell you why.  Am I more open and receptive to children?  I don't know.

The most important things we learn: walking, talking, functions of living are rarely [actively] taught to us.  We don't hold our babies legs and show them how to put one in front of the other.  One day your baby is watching you intently as you tell her a story; the next (it seems) she is telling you the very same words.

Could human beings learn everything we need to learn through immersion and imitation?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  I honestly don't know.  (*flounder flounder flounder*)

How does one learn how to be an adult?  How does a person learn about themselves?  How do people best learn and prepare for their chosen career?

I can say one thing with great certainty - we have gone waaaaaay overboard with "Book Learning".  Text books can only give you a hint of the idea.  If you really want to know how an airplane works, build some!  Go to a wind tunnel and wear wings on your arms!  If you really want to know how the law works, shadow an attorney and read the cases.

Could I be oversimplifying?  (Nooooo.  Me?  Never.)

Our society's disproportionate value for framed certificates that prove the recipient spent time in rooms with teachers and correctly regurgitated (most of the) information is evidence of our mad obsession with status over humanity.

I spent years being taught how to be a graphic designer.  I graduated and I knew nothing.   Oh sure, I had a basic skill set (that could easily have been acquired on my own), but I had absolutely no clue what graphic design was or how it really worked in the world.  My time (and parent's money) would have been far better spent if I spent the same amount of time doing grunt work at a good ad agency.

Immersion and imitation.

Is that my answer?


What's yours?

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